“Got no checkbooks. Got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.” Irving Berlin in Annie Get Your Gun
They say that gratitude is the most powerful and least used of the emotions. Or, to quote Cicero and wax philosophical, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Well, if it’s so powerful, why don’t we practice it more? Too busy. Uninformed, maybe. Anyway, this short article looks to remedy some of that and get you plugged in.
You can’t help but think of “grateful” [an adjective] when thinking about “gratitude” [a noun]. Most famous: “The Grateful Dead” – whose name comes from folklore [originally described by Britannica World Language Dictionary]. The story goes that a traveler stops and pays for the burial of an indigent citizen. The spirit of the deceased then later appears to the traveler to thank him for his good deed, and the philanthropist receives blessings.
There’s also an ulterior motive lurking in all this. Stephen Richards wrote: “When you express gratitude for the blessings that come into your life, it not only encourages the universe to send you more, it also sees to it that those blessings remain.” Now, I’m not saying we’d do this and be deceitfully manipulative. In fact, like good deeds, it’s probably preferable to be anonymous.
The Universe or The Creator sees and is pleased. There’s no need to play games or get greedy. In fact, the deck is precipitously stacked against you. Just your sincere expression of thanks, silently or aloud, for your good fortune.
One example that comes to mind for me is a glass of cold, clean, available water. Just reaching into the fridge and grabbing the pitcher and a glass to quench my thirst. In so many places in The World, water is unavailable, or dirty and unhealthy. There might be a well that serves the entire village and you travel to fetch your supply and tote it home. To your hut. Here, we reach into the fridge or turn on the tap.
Speaking of huts, housing is another area for gratitude. As in all things there is a spectrum. At one end, the homeless living on the streets or under a bridge, in a cardboard box. Maybe a shelter – often single mothers with children. Then a step up to a trailer or public housing, an apartment, a house then a mansion. Whatever it is, housing keeps you safe, dry, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Have you thought about how lucky you are?
Money itself, as a store of wealth or facilitator of exchange, is necessary but often elusive. From flat broke [63% of society has a terrible time putting their hands on $500 to fend off an emergency per a Bankrate.com survey as reported in the Chicago Tribune], or living “paycheck to paycheck.” Finally, you get a cushion of some sort [how much should that be? Is $50,000 good? Enough?] until you reach Multi-millionaire/Billionaire status [and then often become miserable]. Thank you for providing enough and not making me miserable or running on the Rat Race treadmill.
How about transportation? At it’s most basic level, you have feet and mobility. Sometimes, neighborhoods [like NYC] are built that way, with everything you need right there. A bicycle works too – and is healthy and quiet. A bus gets you from Point A to Point B, the whole idea behind transportation. Until ultimately, the car – and complications like maintenance, insurance, parking, accidents and theft. I’m happy to have something we can afford and is reliable. Never been much of a “motorhead.”
Finally, how is your health and the system of managing it? Having it provided to you, through an employer or government is HUGE. When we had to cover on our own, the set of dependents was $800 a month – probably double that now. But I also learned to look at the situation differently. Nutrition, exercise and a good family doc for preventive care takes care of 75% of the situation. The remaining 25% is a crap shoot. Accidents, terminal disease, I understand. But the cost of insuring against ALL risk is enormous. You can’t afford it.
And it really isn’t necessary. From the day we are born, each day we are closer to our exit. Something will take us – it’s just a matter of what and when. And how we scramble and throw money in a desperate attempt to stay here. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, he looked at the investment in chemo and radiation treatments, what it bought him and decided to do nothing. Similarly, if you don’t have the resources, you will similarly do nothing, and accept and understand that it’s now revealed what and when your exit will be.
And, most importantly, the reality – the undeniable hard facts and compelling case – that you will go on to another pace and carry on there. Along with those who travelled ahead of you. And are waiting there.
For all these things, and the others I may fail to recall, I am truly grateful. I know I can do more, and will work toward that. It is good fuel found in a variety of religions, cultures and psychology. You gain peace of mind, happiness and ward off depression. I’m grateful for those benefits too. It just keeps growing.